In defence of libraries – and – my book has sold out :-)

I have heard from my publisher that my book has sold out within two months of it being published. Very gratifying news indeed. More copies are currently being reprinted, so the book should be available again very soon.

It is noteworthy that there is currently some discussion and rethinking by libraries of their role in society. In Australia,  The Future of the Profession is an Australian Library and Information Association Board project examining what the future holds for library and information services across the nation. The Association has published a discussion paper designed to provoke discussion across the sector between library leaders, information service providers, vendors, practitioners, students, commentators, colleagues in Australia and internationally. More can be found at the ALIA futures wiki here: http://aliafutures.wikispaces.com/.

In the USA, there is some interesting discussion on the topic here: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2012/12/27/do-we-still-need-libraries

Of course, Librarians are convinced of the role and value of libraries in society, but many others are not. This is an interesting example where different views may not be understanding each other. And it is up to Librarians to engage with society, and to demonstrate the value of Libraries in a pro-active manner, and not just assume, when having conferences “preaching to the converted”, that that will be enough to convince people outside of the profession. Most people out of the profession are still not aware that Librarians even have conferences, and cannot imagine what would be discussed at them. Nor is it enough to assume that simply placing their collections online will lead to Discovery, Evaluation and Use of the collections.

My book was intended to provide a way for libraries to engage their related professional colleagues in the Museums and Archives sector to provide programmes,  using their collections (print, hybrid and digital), as vehicles with which they could impart information literacy, cultural heritage awareness and worldview literacy skills to the general public. The factor of different world views and contested history is an intrinsic component of any cultural heritage programme, and these aspects have been interrogated by Museums and Archives, but not so much in libraries. (The research in my book demonstrated that finding).

So why is worldview literacy, and the ability to learn about, understand and tolerate different worldviews so important? Well, much conflict is generated from clashing worldviews, conflict is destructive, and not in the best interests of society. (My opinion). I came across an illustration which demonstrates why the inability to tolerate another’s view, even if one does not agree with it, is in essence, a  fallacy:

3 or 4

One can see from this illustration, that both views are in fact, correct. Learning to understand different views gives the ability to see all sides of the matter in a holistic way.

Libraries could take this example to understand their perplexing dilemma of why many people see them as no longer relevant, now that the Internet is here, in those countries that are technologically developed and where unlimited Internet access is available to nearly all of their citizens. I admit that for myself, the first place I go for an answer to a question is the Internet. The sheer instantaneous availability of volumes of information that no single library’s collections could possibly contain, often satisfies most of an information need. However, there is so much that is not yet available on the Internet, and realistically, will still not be for a long time. There is also the matter of critically assessing the credibility of the information, as well as looking for contextual narratives that may cast a different light on the information.

I could go on, and on, but for now, I will leave it at that. In summary: It is very encouraging for me to see Libraries doing some soul searching on the matter,  as I am one who knows their value, but also understands why so many do not.  Museums and Archives have already been through this process, and many have adapted, resulting in them being viewed in a positive light by the general, mainstream society, who understand their value, as complementary to the Internet.

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